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Is Dress for Success Outdated? Three Reasons why it Isn't

Fatimah Gilliam Founder, and CEO The Azara Group

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We live in a society where dress codes are rapidly falling out of fashion. You might notice that what we wear to work is more casual than what it once was. Gone are the days of office formality depicted in the television show Mad Men, where assistants, partners, and everybody in between dressed in traditional business attire and suits.

Since companies are adopting more relaxed dress codes, does "dress for success" still have a place in today's offices?

Undressing the Change

For better or worse, we have become a more casual society. From clothing, workplace and dining etiquette, and how formally we speak and refer to each other to how "proper" we are in our writing and emails, today much of how we engage with others and present ourselves in society is significantly more relaxed. Many norms of when our parents entered the workplace no longer guide our behavior and what we expect of others.

Office dress codes are getting more casual partly because of the influx of millennials into the workforce. Millennials prefer individuality and less formality. As the competition for top college graduates increases, dress codes may continue to relax as casual attire is viewed as a perk. Employers are responding to employee preferences and shifting times.

Another reason why the workforce is trending towards the causal is because of the changing client landscape. You dress for your client. When they dress casually, you may too.

This begs the question - is there still value in dressing up?

Yes! Clothes Still Matter

Here are three reasons why dressing for success is still important in today's workplace.

1. Establishing Your Brand

One major reason to maintain a good image is because it is an investment in your personal brand. Appearance always matters - especially in business settings. Most importantly, your personal image impacts how others will perceive you - from colleagues and clients to bosses and future employers.

Dressing for success can help establish your presence or "brand" in the office - distinguishing you from your fellow colleagues. It demonstrates that you care about the job you are in and that you may have the requisite business presence for that promotion you seek. The old adage of dressing for the job you want and not the one you have still holds true today.

Additionally, it can boost your confidence, which enables you to exude more executive presence. When you feel good in your clothes, it impacts how you feel about and see yourself. Confidence can be a career game changer. Plus, if you dress for the part, you could be perceived as a leader and with the right level of professionalism to handle client meetings and that next big account. Stepping up how you dress could help improve your status in the office.

2. Dressing Up = Better Productivity

Dressing casually could cause employees to be less alert at the office. Looking more polished can help you focus and be ready for your daily grind - increasing your productivity.

There is scientific evidence to support this - more traditional business attire can make you more productive and feel more powerful. A 2015 study showed that people who dressed more formally demonstrate abstract thinking and better problem-solving skills. Another 2014 study showed that men dressed in suits were less willing to concede during negotiations than those dressed more casually.

3. It's Valuable for Professional Development

Within the bounds of the company culture, dressing for success can push you to be a better employee and coworker. It raises your confidence and can pay dividends for your company's bottom line.

First impressions still carry a lot of weight. Looking presentable when people first meet you immediately impacts what they think of you as a leader, businessperson, and colleague. As a result, how you present yourself affects your status in the office and the direction of your career.

It is hard to take someone seriously who looks like they are going to go walk their dog when they are actually running a meeting. People that dress for the job they want tend to get more respect, are perceived to have more gravitas, and advance further in the workplace.

Final Thoughts

It is important to remember that different offices have different cultures, norms, and settings. You should plan your clothes for your environment and workplace culture. Dressing to impress does not always mean you have to wear a suit or traditional business attire to work. Industry norms are important - you should look your best for your industry and always look like you are ready for leadership opportunities.

The key is to also be as efficient as possible. You should care about what you wear, but your outfit should not distract you from your work. You have to balance comfort and style so you look professional while also feeling good. Ultimately, by taking control of the little things, you could create visible change in your work performance and claim that next big professional opportunity.

The Azara Group (TAG) is a consulting firm that promotes the development of leaders in an increasingly competitive and diverse marketplace - providing strategy consulting services and leadership training services to advance professional and life success. TAG leverages expertise in career strategy, diversity, negotiation skills, and business acumen to provide strategic advice and consulting services to help people and organizations get what they want, achieve their goals, and advance their business and career objectives. TAG also helps companies better attract, retain, and promote diverse talent, and develop robust diversity platforms and strategies to create a more inclusive workplace.

The Azara Group welcomes your direct comments and feedback. We do not post comments to our site at this time, but we value hearing from our readers. We invite you to share your thoughts with us. You can contact us directly at [email protected].

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